Dell switching from UNIX to Linux?

Dell switching from UNIX to Linux?.

Slashdot points to this article in ComputerUser about Dell CIO Randy Mott's provocative statement that “UNIX is dead.”    Mott had other provoking observations:

“Industries that don't plan for obsolescence will get out of date and they will turn out to be different industries than what they could have been. said Mott. Look at the airlines, an industry with big possibilities. A lot of that was realized, but it got to a point and then it stopped. Look at the big failures: Eastern Airlines, Swissair, Pan Am. That industry's potential went unfulfilled because of dated processes and obsolescence.”

Well, we all know that Dell (say what you will about their service) is a leader in the just-in-time-inventory revolution, which depends greatly on automated systems.  According to a Dell spokesperson quoted in the article, Dell's amazing build-to-order system (including order management, customer transaction information, manufacturing flow etc.) all involve Sun-based UNIX systems.  But that, according to Mott, is changing.  And Linux is a central part of the change.  The article reports:

Dell looked into switching to Linux. The company determined that such move would yield a configuration 89 percent faster and 41 less expensive.

“The importance of the Unix era vs. Linux era,” says Mott, “is that Linux is based on open standards that will allow CIOs to build flexibility, affordability and performance into business computing platforms.”

Well, I'm surprised.  Not by the switch to Linux, though.  It's becoming increasingly obvious, to the point that the mainstream press is almost starting to figure it out, that Linux is a ready-for-primetime player. Our lawfirm, which a year ago wouldn't have used Linux, now has a Linux server (born last week) that is going to be used to host our internal web site. 

By using Linux we were able to build a server at basically zero cost (old Pentium 166 mhz computer, 64 Mgs of Ram, and 4 Gig harddrive with Apache that runs plenty fast for what we are using it for).  As a result of that laboratory experiment we have now figured out that Linux lets us use old computers very productively without incurring ridiculous software costs.  We've discovered an escape path from the treadmill upgrade cycle.  Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters?

We've become born again, and praise be to Linux.  How did this happen?

Our problem up til now wasn't that we didn't want to use Linux (we did), but finding someone we could hire on a full-time basis who knew Linux.  Our most recent hire didn't know Linux when we hired him, but he wanted to learn it, and naturally we encouraged him.  When he leaves in the Fall to go to Law School, we are going to need another computer person.  And they'll have to either know Linux, or be able to learn it quickly.  I wonder if anyone in the top tier of management at Microsoft is picking this up?  Probably not.  Some things are just too painful to realize and so the corporate brain just routes them into the “denial folder.”

Meanwhile, now when I look in our computer room at the heap of ramshackle computers that were slated for slaughter I no longer see death and destruction; I see potential.  I see Linux servers.  And our new computer guy is working on learning how to make Linux databases that will talk to the servers.  And I feel like a proud parent (“Have I shown you pictures of our new Linux servers?”). 

Apparently, soon Dell's Randy Mott is going to be a proud parent too.  Congratulations to him and to Dell!  [Ernie the Attorney]

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